Happy New Year from This Side of the Diaper! I didn’t get off to the roaring start for 2016 that I thought I would. Mostly we have been enjoying each others company here and breaking resolutions. That’s not really true . . . We didn’t really make resolutions.
Today marks the last day of Christmas Vacation for my sons. Today (Monday) is a teacher work day in our district so our kids get one more day to dread going back to school. Our teachers however, just got the figurative Band-Aid ripped off this morning.
My wife had to go to work this morning. I felt so bad I almost couldn’t go back to sleep. What? Me? A jerk? Wait a minute . . . she and I have talked about this. If nobody else has to get up it seems to work better if she just gets up and goes. It is a matter of me being an awake reminder that she has to leave the house and we don’t or a sleeping reminder that she has to leave the house and we don’t. Add in the facts that the sun doesn’t come up until like 10:40 am in our piece of Alaska and she is not, by nature, a morning person and it makes more sense. It’s complicated.
This morning she poked Charlie awake and took him to work with her. Charlie has accompanied his mom to work several times over that last few weeks. I realize that doesn’t make sense to some of you. Some of you, however, immediately understand why we might do this. You understand why this might make sense because you also have two young boys. You especially understand if you have two young boys separated in age by 3-5 years. We do this because we love our children and we are concerned for everybody’s emotional health. Letting them each have their own space makes things quieter around here.
I watch my sons interact with the same fascination that biologists have when they watch wildlife. I feel like Marlin Perkins on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” watching from the safety of the helicopter while my wife, Stan, is directly involved in whatever this weeks perilous situation happens to be. At times, Charlie, who is 10, is very attentive and caring with five-year-old Eli. Other times Charlie is enraged that Eli is using his oxygen. There is no real in between.
I know most of you are thinking “They are boys . . . you have two of them in the house . . . they are going to squabble . . . get over it”. I have brothers who are three and five years younger than I am. I remember how we got along. The dynamic is tricky. A person has moved along the age processing line a lot farther than siblings that age, so the potential for having things in common is slimmer. Regardless of the age difference, I am amazed by their abilities to annoy the hell out of each other.
I was recently driving somewhere when a huge squabble broke out because Eli looked out Charlie’s window. That’s right . . . Eli made the mistake of glancing out the window Charlie was sitting beside. Really. If you have ever been a sibling you know exactly what Eli’s move was as soon as he realized that looking out of that particular window irritated Charlie. Naturally he smiled, leaned toward the window and made exaggerated googly staring eyes. Charlie got all loud and then retaliated with a hard stare out of Eli’s window. Eli got all loud and told on Charlie.
“Dad, Charlie is looking out my window!”
Great . . . drag me into this. “But you looked out his window first.” That’s right . . . I actually said that. It sounded as ridiculous coming out as it seemed when you read it.
“BURN!” Charlie yelled. Charlie considered my comment an endorsement of the righteousness of his cause and invoked Ashton Kutcher’s “Kelso” from “That 70s Show.”
Eli’s response was not as eloquent or as reflective of pop culture as Charlie’s. Eli is very intelligent and he has lots of things he wants to say but he can’t always get them out of his mouth. When that happens he just roar-squawks like Chewbacca with a stubbed toe. Well, maybe he was a little reflective of pop culture.
“Not BURN Charles!” Not even my use of his entire first name could put any juice behind my feeble response.
“He is always looking out my window without permission!” Charlie complained loudly.
Seriously? Permission to look out a window? I had to do something. “That’s it!” I said with paternal finality. “Nobody looks out any windows . . . ever!” The last word was like the parental key in the lock of authority. Problem solved. Dad has spoken. Let us return to serenity.
The boys looked at each other in semi-stunned silence. In the moment I took the silence as a sign of victory for parental authority. I realize now that it was probably more out of their genuine concern for my mental stability. Whatever . . . they got quiet for moment.
That is probably my real issue with the way my boys get along sometimes. It always seems to end in a paternal edict. I have mandated that nobody touches each other. I have directed from on high that nobody gets to pet the dogs and absolutely no children get to use spoons (long, long story). I have used executive powers to direct that nobody talk to each other more times than I can count. Their mom handles it a little better than I do. Maybe I should try that sinister mom stare with a raised eyebrow and semi half smile that really isn’t a smile at all thing that she has mastered.
The boys relationship is usually less of a problem based on the reduced volume of time spent together. Normally they go to school. Vacation allows them more time to get on each other’s nerves and, predictably, results in more Dad edicts. It helps if we can separate the boys a little, so Charlie went to work with my wife this morning. This fix is only allowable because of the Christmas Holidays. Tomorrow they will be back in school and things will calm down a bit. I will have some time to perfect my technique for Spring Break and summer vacation. I will ask my wife to teach me the stare she uses on the boys. Or maybe I can use the one she gave me when she left for work this morning.
Happy New Year! Thanks for reading and sharing. Look for us on Facebook and give us a follow on Twitter @DiaperSide. We’ll talk again soon on This Side of the Diaper.